June 21, 2016, marks the second year that the world is coming together to celebrate the International Day of Yoga. This is a holiday that the United Nations created to commemorate India's gift to the world and to celebrate the power of yoga. This year, to commemorate International Day of Yoga, Yoga International is joining forces with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and Accessible Yoga to share the message that yoga truly is for every body and everybody. This collaboration builds on previous work by all three organizations which are dedicated to making yoga inclusive and accessible.
Yoga is ultimately about working with the body, breath, and mind so that we can reunite with the place of peace that is within all of us. This profound benefit of yoga can be experienced by everyone, but this message has not been shared widely. This is especially true in the yoga world in North America, where we see yoga represented in a limited, exclusive way that primarily focuses on rigorous asana practice marked by a limited and one-dimensional representation of yoga practitioners as young, able-bodied, and flexible. Now is the time for that to change on a grand scale.
By celebrating internationally, we can rise above the limited Western perspective that continues to exist as the dominant expression of yoga practice and “yoga bodies.” We can take this opportunity to reflect on the essence of the teachings and consider the power of the practices, which transcend class, race, and culture.
As practitioners who have benefited from yoga ourselves and know the power of these practices, we owe a debt to those who have yet to discover them. So what can we do? How can we work together as a community to clearly state that yoga is for all? What steps can we take in our own lives to help share this message?
There are many roadblocks to access—some are subtle and some concrete. Messages that we receive through the media tell us that yoga is only for people who are young, athletic, able-bodied, and flexible. But that's not the truth. Yoga has gifts for all of us regardless of our physical condition, size, and ability. Consider how the images that you experience on a regular basis have constructed your understanding of yoga, as well as how that media image is different from the experience you've had through your own practice.
Concrete obstacles to yoga are not erased just by making spaces wheelchair accessible. There are many obstacles to access, like financial concerns, teachers having a lack of training, and appropriate levels of classes being offered. Yoga classes often take place in exclusive environments that aren't welcoming to people of different races, sexual and gender identities, ages, financial status, and disability. Yoga teachers have an added responsibility. They need specialized training in teaching yoga to all bodies, and to consider the way they include or exclude students from the practice, the language they use, and their willingness to serve everyone who comes to them.
This June 21 we're planning to state our intention to make yoga inclusive, and we hope you'll join us. We can send a message to the world that yoga is for every body, and we're creating an international online challenge to unite our voices.
To join our challenge please post a video and/or photo to Instagram, on or before June 21st, using this prompt: “I'm making yoga accessible by _________. My name is ________, I’m from _________, and this is what a yogi looks like.”
“I'm making yoga accessible by teaching donation-based classes. My name is Shelley, I'm from Santa Monica, CA, and this is what a yogi looks like.”
“I'm making yoga accessible by teaching in juvenile detention facilities. My name is Sarit, I'm from Culver City, CA, and this is what a yogi looks like.”
“I'm making yoga accessible by teaching yoga for all bodies. My name is Maitreyi, I'm from Sacramento, CA, and this is what a yogi looks like.”
“I'm making yoga accessible by teaching yoga for people with multiple sclerosis. My name is Priya, I'm from Oakland, CA, and this is what a yogi looks like.”
1. Follow all three hosts: @accessibleyoga, @ybicoalition, & @yoga_international.
2. Share your photos on Instagram using the hashtag #IDY2016accessibleyoga or #IDYaccessibleyoga.
Additional hashtag suggestions (but not necessary to qualify):
#accessibleyoga #whatyogalookslike #IDY2016 #IDY2016whatayogilookslike #WhatAYogiLooksLike
3. Tag three friends.
We'll choose five winners at random. Each winner will receive: a #whatayogilookslike tee, a copy of Yoga & Body Image, a USB pre-loaded with Yoga International's Spring Digital Conference (20 hours of content!), and a 30-day membership to Yoga International. One grand-prize winner will receive a ticket to attend the Accessible Yoga Conference in Santa Barbara (travel and lodging not included)—a $395 value.
Winners will be announced on June 24th.